Florentino Perez's obsession with finding the new Neymar led him to invest 120 million euros in Vinicius Jr, when he hadn't even debuted for Flamengo, and Rodrygo Goes, when he broke into the Santos side.
On both occasions, Barça, through Andre Cury, were ahead of Real Madrid. And on both occasions, Los Blancos president Perez decided to break the market to get to the front of the queue.
What happened in 2017 with Vinicius was repeated a year later with Rodrygo: and eight million euro signing bonus for the player and eight million more in commission for the agents. Flamengo received 45 million for Vinicius and Santos 40 million for Rodrygo. Barça never planned to spend so much money, amounts the fans nor the media would have understood.
With Vinicius lost (in this case there was a betrayal to Barcelona from a member of staff), the Blaugrana focused on Rodrygo, who they had followed for years.
In the spring of 2017, they had closed an agreement with the player, as revealed by SPORT at the time. The next step was to close a deal with Santos. A Barça delegation, led by CEO Oscar Grau, made first contact with the Brazilian club in May of the same year.
Santos president José Carlos Peres proved tough. He did not want to negotiate and pointed to the release clause. Rodrygo had already made his first-team debut and the clause was 50 million.
The next step was to put pressure on Santos. Barça were optimistic because they didn't feel any other club in Europe could rob them of the player... other than Real Madrid, of course. At that moment, the general sensation was that would not happen because Perez had already stolen Vinicius.
From an economic point of view, nothing made them think Madrid would go for another Brazilian player with such a similar profile and position -- and just six months younger. Barça were confident they could close a deal despite their limited finances that summer.
There was a break in talks as Santos chief Peres travelled to England for other business with Brazil. Which is when Madrid emerged.
Madrid's general director Jose Angel Sanchez met with Peres at the Brazilian national team's hotel in Liverpool after a friendly between Brazil and Croatia at Anfield. The meeting was brief, with Perez's right-hand man offering 40 million, 20 of which to be paid immediately.
Peres accepted. Santos' financial problems, provoked by his poor management, forced his hand.
Barça could not counter-attack. Rodrygo, in addition, received an eight million bonus for signing. Barcelona's offer didn't even reach one million. The player's father, Eric Batista de Goes, phoned the Catalan club to apologise for breaking the verbal agreement they had reached. Barcelona were left with the sensation they had done everything possible to sign the future star and that Madrid had signed him on a market whim.
In fact, Perez's insecurity was so big that he bought two players, hoping that one, at least, would be able to make up for missing out on Neymar back in 2013.